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Ganassi has shot at 'triple crown'

Owner can earn rare accomplishment with win at Indianapolis

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Thursday, Jul. 22, 2010

Chip Ganassi has made a big impact with both his NASCAR and IndyCar series teams this season.

Big, but not bountiful.

Ganassi has already won the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 this season and enters this weekend with the opportunity to become the first owner to win a motorsports version of the "triple crown" should he win Sunday's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Ganassi owns three Indy 500 wins, but no NASCAR victories at the storied 2.5-mile speedway.

"We have the big events covered, it's those events in between that make up the series that we seem a bit challenged by," Ganassi said.

"But if you're going to win, we're winning the ones you want to win."

Driver Jamie McMurray, in his second stint driving for the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates organization, gave Ganassi his first Daytona 500 win in February. That's Ganassi's only NASCAR win so far this season.

Scott Dixon gave Ganassi an IndyCar win at Kansas, and Dario Franchitti added an Indy 500 victory, both in May.

"Our drivers get up for big events. They seem to like those places. Jamie and Juan (Pablo Montoya) in NASCAR both like Daytona, Dario and Scott both like Indianapolis, Scott Pruett likes Daytona," Ganassi said.

"So many times you have drivers who are good at a particular type of track. Fortunately, our guys are good at the tracks that have the big races. Believe me, that's a big help, and it's no small thing."

Wins in big races certainly pay big dividends, but Ganassi would also like to contend for championships.

During his 25-plus years in motorsports, Ganassi's open-wheel teams have seven championships and 76 wins - including three in the Indianapolis 500. His NASCAR teams have 13 wins, including this year's Daytona 500, and one driver - Montoya last season - has qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

This season that has been more difficult.

McMurray is 18th in the Cup standings, Montoya is 21st and both are in danger of missing the 12-driver cut for the Chase, though a victory by either on Sunday would go a long way in helping to change that dynamic.

Ganassi remains much more in the title hunt in the IndyCar series, where Franchitti is second in points and Dixon third, both trailing leader Will Power with seven races left on the schedule.

Ganassi likes to say you can pick up 90 to 95 percent of racing very quickly, but you spend your entire time in the sport chasing the last five percent.

While McMurray and Montoya's inconsistency may not show it, Ganassi's NASCAR teams have been contending with the best in the sport.

"Someone pointed out to me the other day that we're eighth and ninth in laps led in NASCAR. We're nowhere near that in the points," he said. "So that tells you we have some other things we have to work on.

"We have to get to the finish. We're showing we have fast cars, and we're showing that we can put the equipment on the track. Our engines are good.

"But we're just not making it happen at the end of the race. So that's sort of currently what I would say we're working on."

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